Swans, To Be Kind (Young God) ****
In 2012, Swans hit a hard second stride with their critically-deified The Seer. While most 30-year-old bands are shilling their Greatest Hits CDs, Swans are forging new paths in experimental, percussive, abrasive and industrial experimental rock.
To Be Kind, while not as much of a life-changing aesthetic experience as The Seer, is more straightforward and groove-laden, making it a bit more palatable to the first-time listener. The album has quite the varied instrument palate, but every instrument eventually becomes percussive in one way or another. The arrangement is lush, inventive, intense and surprisingly gorgeous, though vocalist and mastermind Michael Gira’s maniacal wails could be a few decibels quieter in the mix to let that instrumentation really shine.
The standout track could almost be its own EP: the brilliant “Bring the Sun” clocks in at nearly 35 minutes. It swells and contracts with intensity, finding calms in the storm and riding the lulls out a few times before grooves get picked back up and get marched straight into the darkness. To Be Kind is a great first listen for the young cygnet looking to become a full-blown Swan.
Listen to the full record on NPR's First Listen.